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Star Turns: Six players that shone in the FA Cup this weekend

Another enthralling weekend of FA Cup action brought us an overdue thriller between Manchester United and Liverpool, in addition to a meek exit from the holders as Arsenal bowed out at Southampton.

Each of the Premier League’s top three all secured their passage into round five with victories, whilst there were comfortable wins for the likes of Everton and West Ham who will no doubt be viewing this competition as a realistic chance to end their long waits for major honours.

Following the weekend’s fixtures we’ve picked out some of the FA Cup’s star performers, here are six players who shone in the fourth round:

Tammy Abraham

Tammy Abraham has faced a fight to convince he can be the spearhead of an expensively assembled Chelsea side, but the forward passed his latest audition with flying colours courtesy of an excellent hat-trick against Luton this weekend.

The 23-year-old was a menacing threat to the Championship side throughout as Chelsea booked their place in the next round with a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge, with Abraham’s repertoire of finishing impressive.

The England international has the physical presence to offer a direct route for his side alongside the pace to stretch defences in behind, his multi-faceted talents on show as he helped himself to a second Chelsea treble.

Abraham opened the scoring with a crisp low finish into the far corner before rising highest to head home a second inside the opening 17 minutes, clinching the tie with a close-range tap-in in the second half after Luton were handed an avenue back into the contest following an error from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

It’s now 11 goals in just 14 starts in all competitions for Abraham who will be hoping to cement himself as a fixture for the west London side, his challenge set to begin once more as Chelsea seek a new manager following the sacking of Frank Lampard.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba’s career at Manchester United has been mixed with moments of brilliance and periods of inconsistency, but the midfielder’s recent renaissance has provided a huge boost to his side’s hopes of landing major silverware this season.

The France international has been excellent in recent weeks and followed winning goals against Burnley and Fulham with a stand-out showing in the club’s 3-2 FA Cup win over Liverpool, thriving at the heart of the side in another encouraging performance.

Pogba has put aside the continued speculation over his future and often unhelpful comments of his controversial agent to place an emphasis on the team, the ‘dirty work’ currently being covered by the Frenchman showing attributes that haven’t been often been associated with his play.

Pogba was central to his side’s success against Liverpool and relished the physical duel in addition to plugging gaps as the Red Devils ventured forward, making a series of important interceptions in a display full of defensive discipline.

The version of Pogba who often drifted through games has been replaced by one who understands the influence he can have on contests, a more than welcome sight for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Manchester United supporters.

There have been plenty of false dawns when it comes to the club-record signing at Old Trafford, but there are positive signs for Pogba who could yet have a major say on the destination of the England’s biggest prizes this season.

Conor Hourihane

Aston Villa’s impressive start to the season has seen Conor Hourihane become somewhat of a forgotten figure at Villa Park, the midfielder signing for Swansea on loan this month in search of regular first-team football.

The Ireland international made his first start for the Swans during their FA Cup fourth round clash with Championship rivals Nottingham Forest and starred in a convincing 5-1 win for Steve Cooper’s side.

The 29-year-old featured in an advanced midfield role and his quality shone through on a fine afternoon for Swansea, with Cooper describing the winter window arrival as ‘excellent’ for his composure and quality in possession.

Hourihane quickly assumed the position as set-piece taker and produced a number of fine deliveries from dead-ball situations, the Irishman influential throughout in a clash that also saw the likes of Liam Cullen and Matt Grimes impress.

Swansea face Manchester City in the next round and an improving side will be seeking an upset, though promotion remains their focus and the signing of Hourihane looks a shrewd acquisition for a side currently sitting in the automatic promotion places.

Cengiz Under

Brendan Rodgers has largely fielded a settled side at Leicester this season with the club currently embroiled in the Premier League’s title race, though a second-string side saw a number of players stake their claim for more regular involvement against Brentford this weekend.

Leicester fought back in the second half to secure a 3-1 win after trailing to an early Mads Bech Sorensen goal, their comeback sparked by a player who could yet play an increasingly influential role over the second half of the season.

Cengiz Under signed for the Foxes on loan from Roma during the summer and has had to be patient for an opportunity, starting just one Premier League fixture but showing flashes of the talent which have seen him previously linked with Europe’s elite.

Under was bright throughout with his quick feet and intelligent movement evident, whilst he took his goal superbly to bring Leicester level after being played in by the impressive James Maddison.

Comfortable drifting inside or beating his full-back on the outside, Under’s talents are perhaps deserving of more game-time than he has received this season and the Turkey international will hope an impressive cameo can lead to further inclusion.

James Rodriguez

Everton’s marquee summer signing appears to be finding his groove again after injury halted an impressive start to his career in English football, the 29-year-old the star turn as the Toffees breezed into the last 16 with a 3-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

It was the type of performance we have come to expect from the Colombia international, starting the fixture as a nominal right winger but drifting into dangerous pockets of space and providing moments of real quality.

Everton’s best passages of play came through the midfielder who demanded possession and made things happen, a signing who many deemed a gamble having so far proven to be one who has unquestionably improved Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

Rodriguez dazzled against the Championship side this weekend and created a huge 10 chances, finishing the contest with two assists after a pair of pinpoint in-swinging corners were met by Richarlison and Yerry Mina respectively.

There will be much sterner challenges awaiting than a Sheffield Wednesday side battling for survival in England’s second tier, but Rodriguez is a player who can unlock defences and will be key to Everton’s hopes of silverware and European qualification this season.

Jay Rodriguez

From one Rodriguez to another, the rather less-heralded Jay proved the inspiration behind Burnley’s comfortable passage into a fifth round meeting with either Bournemouth or Crawley at Turf Moor.

Sean Dyche’s side followed their shock win at Liverpool this week with a comfortable victory at Fulham, making light work of their Premier League rivals with Rodriguez the architect of a 3-0 success at Craven Cottage.

The 31-year-old had not scored a goal for the Clarets since July but ended a six-month wait with a well-taken double in the capital, guiding a stooping header into the far corner to open the scoring after timing his run to perfection.

Rodriguez doubled his tally for the afternoon and for the season from the penalty spot, before adding an assist to a pleasing afternoon’s work with a clever touch into the path of Kevin Long.

Dyche will have been pleased with the forward’s match-winning contribution which was complemented by a display full of running and pressing, Rodriguez now hoping his star showing for Burnley’s second string can lead to a recall to the Claret’s Premier League side.

Read – Donkeys: Five PL players who blew their chance to impress in the FA Cup

Read Also – Man United vs Liverpool: The most famous cup meetings between the hated rivals

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